24 September 2006
How I Meditate, part I
The hardest part is beginning. I get myself into the room, using the fiction that I don’t have to stay any longer than it feels right to me. I give myself permission to get up and leave whenever I want. (Almost always, once I wean myself from the stimulus and activity, meditation is enjoyable, and I will sit for about 25 minutes, after which my legs begin to cramp.)
I remind myself that this is not a time for solving problems or coming up with ideas. This, too, is a fiction, because of the paradoxical effect of attention: I’ve found that it is when I remove my mind from my work that my most creative ideas appear. It is exactly when I am resolved explicitly to exclude thoughts of work that creativity flourishes, and ideas that guide my research and my writing and projects reveal themselves to me.
I sit and imagine my head supported by a sky hook, my spine hanging suspended from the head. I take stock of my body, notice whatever is there to be noticed, and usually find my neck or shoulders or torso relaxing in response to this attention. I turn to my breath, without trying to control or change it in any way, but usually find that, as with the body, my breath responds to attention by slowing and deepening.
I witness my thoughts and sensations, as though I were another person. I separate myself from whatever is going on in my mind, and watch it like a movie. I am resolved not to judge or to interfere with the thought process, only to watch. Everything is permitted. When I find ‘myself’judging or responding or arguing with the thoughts, that is one more activity of the mind, from which I detach myself and watch.
This is the heart of my meditation practice. Sometimes, I find my mind recalling and sometimes planning and sometimes daydreaming; but I am not my mind. My task is only to watch, to abstract myself continually from my thoughts and to be the witness, not the protagonist.
– Josh Mitteldorf
23 September 2006
The best thing about the Jewish tradition of the High Holy Days is that it counsels a ten-day period of reflection. From today until a week from Monday, we will step back from our lives (occasionally, as the spirit moves us, when we think of it) – we will step outside ourselves and look at our activities and our choices from the larger perspective of our deep values. Of necessity, for the sake of practical efficiency, intentionality has yielded to habit as we seek to cover our obligations in a complex and demanding world. In these ten days, we tip the scales back a bit toward intentionality. We ask where in our routines there might be hidden some freedom that we have missed, an opportunity to move in a way that is more consonant with our own inner vision.
This is your year – 5767.
22 September 2006
“Giving love, attention and compassion to others; these actions are not the overflow of attentions to our selves, not the excess pennies or diamonds from our pockets. They are instead creations from the cold stuff of the universe, butterflies emerging, wet and new, transformed from crusty cocoons. Giving and loving...nourishing the greater Self.”
(David H Thomas)
21 September 2006
Our connections affect our health. As important as any aspect of diet, exercise, or
self-care is our connection to community and the quality of our
relationships to others. Demographic and hospital admission statistics
demonstrate a robust effect: those with close family ties and caring
relationships experience less disease and longer life spans.
Swam Satchidananda, ever fond of word games, would illustrate that the difference between illness and wellness was very simple. He wrote the two words on the blackboard and circled the initial letters
20 September 2006
Upton Sinclair, born this day in 1878, touched America’s conscience and sparked some of the earliest reforms in factory working conditions. His 1906 novel The Jungle contained lurid descriptions of conditions in meat-packing plants.
“Even President Theodore Roosevelt seemed to be more shocked by the details of how cattle and hogs were being sliced into beef and pork--and by how much condemned meat was ending up on American dinner tables – than by the workers’ plight. Within a matter of months, Sinclair’s book became an international bestseller and sparked legislation regulating the meat industry for the first time.” – USNews article
for the public’s heart, ... and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”
19 September 2006
“Perhaps nobody ever accomplishes all that he feels lies in him to do; but nearly every one who tries his power touches the walls of his being.”
18 September 2006
“There are certain subtle tones of feeling, delicate shades of thought, which are usually unnoticed, overlooked or dismissed in ordinary daily life. These disregarded experiences are the very things the meditator must seize upon for culture and development We must focus all our power of attention on them whenever they appear, striving to yield ourselves up to them utterly.
“In such moments we discover what is almost a second self within...
“Within every single one of us lies well upon well of spiritual peace untapped, of spiritual intelligence untouched. From time to time whispers come to us from this second self, whispers that urge us to practice self-control, to take the higher path and to transcend selfishness. We must heed those whispers and exploit those rare moments. They give us glimpses of what we may become...
“There is something which occasionally makes it self felt in this manner in the mysterious depth of the soul. What it is we hardly know, but what it says we may know. ‘All that is best in thee, that am I,’ is its silent voice. It is one with us, yet sainted and set apart.”